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Small Caps To Watch


Inside Wall Street

SMALL-CAPS TO WATCH

Forget the blue chips, advises Marc Robins. Go for the small-caps. "Investors shouldn't shun the 50% markdowns in the market's bargain basement," says the editor-in-chief of The Red Chip Review, where "tomorrow's leading stocks" are to be found. Indeed, in the past few weeks, NASDAQ's small-cap stocks have been rallying.

The Red Chip Review tracks and rates more than 300 stocks with market caps of $40 million to $750 million--most of them unknown to Wall Street. (These red chips are not to be confused with Hong Kong-based companies owned by the Chinese.) The publication started in August, 1993, and so far has 11 analysts, including Robins. Some of his big winners include: Medicis Pharmaceutical (MDRX), which Robins rated a buy on Jan. 17, 1996, at 121/2. It hit a high of 47 on Jan. 23, 1997. This year, one of his biggies is Innovex (INVX): He recommended it in late August when it was at 8; it jumped to a high of 427/8 on May 7.

Topping his new list: In Focus Systems (INFS), a supplier of portable liquid-crystal display data and video projectors; Monaco Coach (MCCO), producer of a wide range of motor homes; Simula (SMU), a maker of auto air bags and "crashworthy" airline seats; and Tarrant Apparel Group (TAGS), designer and maker of women's apparel for large retailers, such as The Limited, Sears, and Target Stores.

When Robins tagged In Focus a buy in late April, it was trading at 17. It has since gone to 23, and he thinks it's headed to 34. The reason: Robins sees ballooning demand for In Focus products, which allow group viewing of multimedia data and information. And through a joint venture with Motorola, In Focus is designing new LCD technologies. In Focus should earn $1.86 a share this year and $2.40 in 1998, up from 1996's $1.16, figures Robins.

Sales at Monaco Coach rose 158%, to $365 million in 1996. They're expected to hit up to $430 million in 1997 and up to $494 million in 1998. Robins sees earnings going to $1.92 in 1997 and $2.60 in 1998, from 1996's $1.23.

He expects a sharp turnaround in sales and earnings at Simula, with revenues hitting $104.4 million this year and $150 million in 1998, up from $66.7 million last year. Ditto for earnings: 41 cents this year and $1.12 in 1998, versus a 76 cents-a-share loss last year.

Robins figures Tarrant will make $1.75 this year and $2 in 1998, up from 1996's $1.53.BY GENE G. MARCIALReturn to top

TABLE

Ready to Rise?

STOCK MAY 28 PRICE 52-WEEK RANGE

IN FOCUS SYSTEMS 23 11/16 12 3/4-34

MONACO COACH 22 10 5/8-30

SIMULA 16 3/4 12 7/8-26

TARRANT APPAREL 15 3/8 7 1/4-25

DATA: THE RED CHIP REVIEW

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